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Parkin’ and Honkin’

Ever notice how angered you get when you’re waiting for someone to leave a parking spot that you want? Learn why on this Moment of Science.

Ever notice how angered you get when you’re waiting for someone to leave a parking spot that you want? Or on the other hand, how mad you get when someone is breathing down your neck waiting for the spot that you are in?

As it turns out, sociologists at Pennsylvania State University have actually studied the way in which we interact with each other over parking spaces.

A parking space, according to researcher R. Bary Ruback, is a kind of mini-territory we want to defend.

It’s not as important as your home, which is called “primary territory,” or your favorite chair at the library, that’s “secondary territory.” A parking spot is however a public space which we occupy briefly, which is good enough to register a “THIS BELONGS TO ME” reaction, according to Ruback.

In his studies, Ruback recorded the average time that people take to leave a parking space without being bothered — about 32 seconds. However, when another car is waiting to enter, that time goes up by as much as seven seconds. Furthermore, if the person who wants the space honks impatiently, people delay even more — as much as 12 seconds.

Why?

The most likely explanation is that demonstrating our possession of a parking space, or our territory, boosts our sense of empowerment. As humans we tend to engage in these power plays in many aspects of life, despite how small–even over a parking spot.

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